Article posted March 31st, 2012
On March 27, 2012 following the Ontario Budget CARP released this statement:
CARP members will welcome the attention paid to seniors in the Ontario budget especially to increase funding and measures for home care; protecting those with less than $100,000 net income from income testing of drug benefits and eliminating red tape for withdrawing locked-in funds. The Province’s continued support for CPP-enhancement will also be appreciated.
The centrepiece of the Ontario budget as it affects older Ontarians is the fairly comprehensive attention paid to “Providing the Right Care, at the Right Time, at the Right Place”.
“CARP has called for a comprehensive strategy to ensure a seamless continuum of care starting from a post acute episode or diagnosis and continuing to end of life. These budget measures clearly recognize the importance and the preference of staying in one’s own home as long as possible in this journey”, said Susan Eng, VP Advocacy for CARP.
The four percent increase in funding worth $526 million a year for home care and community services will bring welcome support for seniors who need care in the community rather than in hospital or nursing homes and especially welcome in light of the capping of health care spending growth to 2.1 %.
Also important is the provision of care coordinators, investment in chronic care services and moving forward on the Home Renovation Tax credit to help people remain in their homes. Together with patient-centred funding, these measures represent a shifting of health care funding from the institutions to community sector which would further the cause of supporting the Aging at Home Strategy.
However, there will still be a 2.8% increase in funding for long term care including 1% in direct care costs. No new long term care beds are expected beyond those previously announced but the increased funding will pay for renovating existing beds and expanding convalescent care facilities within nursing homes.
Income testing for seniors’ drug benefits affecting only those with more than $100,000 of net income will find general acceptance once it is clear that Ontario’s universal low deductible coverage is unique among all the provinces and the most generous. Even with the proposed changes, Ontario seniors will be among the best off compared to those in other provinces.
The annual deductible – at present $100 – will increase to $100 plus 3% of the net income over $100,000 for a single person and over $160,000 combined income for a senior couple. The deductible increases to $700 for a person with $120,000 net income and to $3,100 for a person with $200,000 net income.
This is a deductible, not a premium as it is in other provinces, so a healthy senior who spends very little on prescription drugs will not be concerned with the new deductibles.
CARP members who were surveyed about income testing drug coverage were generally accepting of income thresholds above the OAS cut off to $100,000 or more. The limiting of the impact of the changes to less than 5% of Ontario’s 1.9 million seniors will improve that acceptance.
Removing the red tape for withdrawing locked in funds will be welcomed by CARP members who have been calling for full unlocking of those funds. Locked in funds result from transfers from defined contribution plans and the federally proposed Pooled Registered Pension Plans. The funds could be withdrawn upon application to provincial bureaucracy and payment of fees ranging from $200 to $600. Removing this requirement will give people freer access to their money when they need it. And government will save $7.8 million over three years starting immediately.
The Province’s continued support for a CPP enhancement and concerns about the PRPPs will also be welcome news to CARP members who consistently prefer expanding access to CPP and CPP-like savings vehicles to the privately administered defined contribution PRPPs which leave the market risk with the employees.